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LCF23: MA Fashion Photography graduate Eugénie Flochel uses art as a voice for societal change

Pastel image with flowers
  • Written byLubna Hussain
  • Published date 06 March 2023
Pastel image with flowers
Pastel Flowers (page 7) by Eugénie Flochel - MA Fashion Photography 2023

LCF Postgraduate Class of 2023 features work from our three world-leading design, communications and business schools to demonstrate how LCF students look beyond the traditional notions of fashion to imagine a new and exciting future. We're finding out more about work from this year's graduating cohort. In light of International Womens Day 2023, we interviewed Eugenie Flochel, a London-based artist with French and Persian roots working across photography and mixed media.

Prior to studying MA Fashion Photography at LCF, she studied BA in Political Science at The University of Warwick and an MFA from the Pratt Institute, NYC. Eugenie explored visual culture by raising awareness around social issues that often go unheard or unseen - particularly those related to gender inequality and violence against women - through her work “KER: a story of healing and resilience.” Through KER, she offers us an intimate look into different aspects of recovery such as self-care practices and support systems. It's clear that her mission is an important one; allowing us all more visibility on topics so rarely discussed openly but desperately need attention if we're ever going make progress towards ending gender-based discrimination once and for all.

Collage of places with drawings, a short bio and a portrait of a woman named N surrounded by leaves
Story of N. (page 1) by Eugénie Flochel - MA Fashion Photography 2023
Tell us a little about yourself

My work is positioned in the field of socially engaged art and experimental photography where I explore narratives of mental health, gender identity and self-development. I hope to promote positive visibility and well-being through blending documentary, fashion, and fine art elements that are underpinned by a performative and playful approach.

My interests in mental health and art therapy recently crystallised after I completed training as a yoga teacher and now through facilitating art workshops with women at charities. As part of my master’s project KER, I explored healing and resilience among female survivors of domestic abuse which won the Procter & Gamble Better Lives Award in 2022, funding the entirety of my project and received funding from the Council of Westminster to further my work with charities. I have worked across the art and voluntary sectors as well as in the creative industry for ethical fashion brands, music artists and multi-disciplinary festivals.

Your graduate photographic book "KER: a story of healing and resilience" investigated recovery and resilience among women survivors of domestic violence at the intersections between fashion, social-documentary, fine art and expanded photography. What led you to focus on this topic as part of your final project?

Reasons behind my project were twofold. On the one hand, domestic violence is a cause very dear to my heart because it is my personal story, just like it is for 1 in 3 women globally. On the other hand, domestic violence is a societal and pressing issue, still very much misunderstood and misrepresented in society and the media.

In addition, there is a substantial lack of representation about the aftermath of domestic violence - the healing process. As I found very few representations in art and media about surviving abuse, I decided it was time to tackle the topic from a positive and proactive approach by investigating life after abuse in authentic and innovative ways for both survivors and society. Using different mediums, tools, techniques, and approaches, I aimed to build a strong toolbox for giving survivors a voice and the proper reach they deserve.

Through KER, I intended to harness technically ambitious photography and creative expression as a positive tool for visibility and wellbeing.

Handwritten letter images and a portrait of a woman named Joanna (Viola musician, Abused from age 22 to 24 and at 25)
Handwritten love letter to self 'Hello Me' (page 9) by Eugénie Flochel - MA Fashion Photography 2023
How can we embrace equality in empowering survivors and break connotations where society portray victims as helpless, rather than empowered individuals who have gone through recovery and growth?

I think that the very first step is to talk to survivors and to initiate an honest conversation on their experience living and surviving abuse. Through KER, I was lucky to have collaborated with more than 40 women survivors, with ages ranging from 19 to 77. Each had their own story, background, life experiences and healing journey but something they all shared was their resilience, joy, faith, a willingness to heal and an openness to share their story.

What I wanted to portray through KER is that life after violence exists and that it is possible to heal and recover from abuse. I wanted to frame surviving abuse as a positive narrative of recovery and self-leadership and honour the talent and artistic expression of these individuals.

My sincere hope is that by chronicling my healing journey and that of other survivors, I can communicate complex narratives within a public discourse and engage audiences situated within multiple arenas. This would, ideally, help challenge the traditional understanding and representation of domestic abuse and possibly erode the perspectives that are subjugated by shame and guilt to contribute to a restored self-esteem and regaining of self for survivors.

Collage of three images with drawings and a short bio of a woman named M.
Story of M. by Eugénie Flochel - MA Fashion Photography 2023
You used forms of photography, visual experimentations, and participatory art workshops with charities to explore sensitive subjects whilst respecting boundaries set by those involved in these projects. What does it mean to you when building such a space/community?

I think that what best describes my approach to working with survivors revolves around 3 key words: sensitivity; authenticity; collaboration.

It took time to be able to build a trusting and nurturing relationship with my collaborators, but now looking back I think having the access to many different art forms gave them complete ownership and freedom over their creative process which was highly beneficial. It helped connect on a different level with the women during the process. I intended to create an emotional and safe space for survivors to tell their stories of recovery with their own words, means and terms. I think this in turn established a new space, one that is hybrid, navigating trauma recovery, self-growth, and joy.

You mention that you have developed personal projects around issues embedded in gender identity, mental health, and self-development. Since leaving London College of Fashion, have you focused on any other projects that you'd like to share?

I finished my degree only few weeks ago so at the moment I haven’t started working on any other projects. But I genuinely believe that KER is an on-going body of the work and the foundation of something that might become my life’s work. I am planning to develop it further by working with male and children survivors. I also intend to keep on experimenting with new materials and alternative techniques in expanded photography.

Handwritten letter images and a portrait of a woman named Diane (Yoga teacher and founder of voga academy Abused from 2015 to 2016)
Handwritten love letter to self 'Dear Diana' (page 10) by Eugénie Flochel - MA Fashion Photography 2023
What made you decide on studying MA Fashion Photography? Looking back, how did it help you grow into the artist you are now?

I decided to pursue a degree in Fashion Photography because I have always been interested in the role of fashion to challenge, provoke, disrupt, and communicate clear messages. I also like to think of the fashion lens as a true document of society which, as a photographer whose practice focuses a lot on documentary, excites me greatly.

Although the fashion industry is still very much problematic, I still feel very inspired by its potential to enact positive change and social impact.

The support and incredible encouragement I received from LCF has helped challenge my photographic practice in ways I never thought possible. I was also able to build a strong network of creatives and work collaboratively on amazing projects. More personally, I now know how to honour my creative process and trust my instincts. I am truly grateful for this experience which significantly made me grow as an artist and heal as a woman.